Zooming In and Stepping Back: A Two-Sided Approach to Research

As I head into the second half of my internship at the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) in Budapest, I find myself equipped with a more focused understanding of my research— and, curiously, a wider understanding of my research. This may sound strange at first. How can my perspective become narrower and broader simultaneously? It might seem paradoxical, but I’ve realized that digging deeper into a research project often entails zooming in and stepping back.

Here I am standing on Liberty Bridge and looking at Budapest from across the Danube River–a zoomed out view if you will.

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Stage 1 of my Summer Internship Abroad: Exploring Budapest’s Present and Past

The Chain Bridge spans the Danube River, connecting the Buda and Pest sides of the city.

Hello (Szia) from Budapest, Hungary! In a few days, I will start my internship with the European Roma Rights Centre, where I will be working with the legal team and doing research on anti-Roma discrimination. But for now, I am busy exploring the city and getting acclimated to my temporary home. As I wrote in April (and as Princeton’s IIP program suggested), interning abroad can be thought of as a comprehensive research experience — a time to collect “data” on our surrounding environments. Fellow PCUR blogger Vidushi gave similar advice during her study abroad experience in New Zealand, where she talked about taking courses relevant to New Zealand culture. Following everyone’s “immerse-yourself-in-the-culture” suggestion, I used my first few days in Budapest to do some informal “research” on the city. Continue reading Stage 1 of my Summer Internship Abroad: Exploring Budapest’s Present and Past

Just When You Think the Year is Over, the Best is yet to Come

At Reunions, you can always identify the alumni by the wacky orange and black jackets custom-designed for their class!

Back during exam period, when I unenthusiastically headed to the depths of Firestone for intense study sessions, I was motivated by a few exciting prospects. Most obviously, there was the idea of being done with exams and embarking on refreshing summer experiences. But for many Princeton students, the end of the school year also entails one of the University’s oldest and most eagerly awaited traditions: Reunions.

Reunions is a three-day period at the end of May when all Princeton alumni are invited back to campus for a weekend of fun events, celebration and socializing. Graduating seniors get to attend, as do many other undergraduates who are participating in or working at events. I have the opportunity to go this year because I’m performing at Reunions with Princeton University Ballet. (If you are interested in attending our show–which is free and open to the public–it will be in the Frist Film and Performance Theater at 6:00 pm on Saturday, May 28!)
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Confessions of a Post-Declaration Sophomore

For AB Princeton sophomores, April 19, 2016 was (and still is) a date engraved in our brains. It marked the deadline for declaring our concentration. By extension, it also symbolized a major transition in our academic careers. April 19 signaled the end of days, weeks and even months of uncertainty mixed with internal debates and (many) last-minute mind changes. Theoretically, the passing of April 19 should have put us sophomores at ease. No more doubt and anxiety …right?

Still feel torn between two concentrations?

On the contrary, I personally have experienced some uncertainty since declaring my major (Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, also known as “Woody Woo”). Given that many of my friends have had similar feelings, I’ve decided to address two questions that my fellow not-so-anxiety-free sophomores might have post-concentration declaration.

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3 Steps to a Fulfilling Summer Research Experience

The weather might make you feel like summer is impossibly far off (as I’m writing this, it’s a depressingly chilly 37 degrees), but move-out day is less than two months away! Given June’s swift approach, now is an excellent time to start thinking about how you can get the most out of your summer experiences.

Whether your summer plans involve flying to another continent or staying on campus to do research, some introspective preparation can truly ~elevate~ your experience.

This summer, I will be doing an IIP internship at a public interest law organization in Budapest, Hungary. I’m currently in the process of solidifying travel and housing details, but logistics aren’t the only thing to plan for. Last week, for example, all summer IIP students attended a meeting to get advice on how to make the most of our internships. Many of the speakers’ suggestions involved logistical preparation, echoing the tips Dylan wrote about a few weeks back. But they also focused on introspective preparation and encouraged us to reflect on where our research fits into our lives — and on what kinds of researchers we aim to be. Here are three of the tips that we discussed: Continue reading 3 Steps to a Fulfilling Summer Research Experience

Mentorship in Research: Getting by with a little help from my friends

Over the course of the semester, PCURs will reflect on the professors, advisers, and friends who shaped their research experiences. We present these to you as a series called Mentorship in Research. Most undergraduates have met, or will meet, an individual who motivates and supports their independent work. Here, Emma shares her story.


Shout out to my friends for helping me make smart decisions.

While many professors and advisers have offered me invaluable guidance throughout my academic career, my most helpful and memorable mentorship experiences have actually been with friends. Not that my friends and I often sit down and have formal discussions about our research paths. Rather, most of their advice comes in the form of consolations when I’m feeling unsure of my decisions regarding work and research.

I know what you are thinking. “Is support from friends really a form of mentorship?” I understand why this might seem confusing at first, but I truly believe that friends can often be the best mentors. My friends probably know better than anyone else what interests and excites me. Unlike with a professor or adviser, I don’t feel the need to impress my friends or worry about their impression of my choices. Plus, my friends are the ones who listen to all of my complaints about projects or commitments I’m not interested in. Seeing me at my best and my worst gives them valuable insight: They wouldn’t let me take on a project they didn’t think I would find engaging (if for no other reason than because they don’t want to hear me complain).

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Presenting Like a Pro: Three Tips for the Freshmen Research Conference and Princeton Research Day

Often, the second half of the semester calls for students to present their research findings in class, or in front of professors/advisers evaluating independent work. Presentations are a different kind of assignment than, say, fifteen-page research papers — and they require a different set of skills. At this time last year, I found myself facing a new and unexpected presentation project: My fall writing seminar professor had asked me to revisit my final research paper and present it at the Quin Morton ‘36 Conference.

Engaging your audience during a presentation can seem like a daunting task, but with some thoughtful preparation, you’ll be sure to command their attention.

Now called the Mary W. George Freshmen Research Conference, this event is an opportunity for freshmen to share their writing seminar research with a wider audience through ten-minute presentations. I encountered many challenges while breaking down my paper—a feminist perspective on evaluations of sexuality in films— into slides and bullet points. However, I also learned a lot about presentations through the process. While this year’s participants are gearing up for the conference in early April, students presenting at Princeton Research Day are in the midst of similar preparation. In light of these upcoming events, and since many students will have to present their research as spring semester comes to a close, I have decided to offer some advice on research presentations. Below I throw in my two (three) cents on the topic.

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Are We Robots or Are We Dancers?

Princeton’s Dance Department and Robotics Program might seem like polar opposites to the average student: The former attracts the most creative and artistically inclined of the student body while the latter is deeply math-science oriented. Over the past three weeks, however, I have seen one student challenge these assumptions by bridging the arts-science divide.

Dana Fesjian ’17 is an undergraduate in the Electrical Engineering (ELE) Department, who is participating in a Lewis Center for the Arts initiative called Performance Lab. Known informally as P-Lab, this initiative allows dancers to explore independent work that connects dance with a different field. The culmination of this exploration is a performance in early March where the participants showcase their choreography and explain their independent work. Dana—whom I dance with in Princeton University Ballet—is using sound-sensitive robots to create dance movements and patterns that will eventually be performed by humans. She asked me to be one of the dancers in her project and I happily agreed to do so.

Dana’s robots reacted to sound signals from a jazz song to map out the pattern above. In her P-Lab piece, the dancers will trace this exact pattern and five other ones created using different songs.

Throughout our rehearsals over the past three weeks, I have had the chance to learn more about Dana’s independent work, and decided to cover her experience for my post this week.

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Challenging the “Proper” Way to Write a Research Essay

Pinpoint a research question. Develop a clear thesis. Support that thesis with foolproof evidence. Discredit any rebuttals.

This is how many of us approach research papers — because ever since elementary school, teachers have told us to pick an argument and stand by it. I have completed assignment after assignment using this strategy, but recently I had the opportunity to break out of the single-argument box and experience a new writing technique.

This is a picture I took from atop the Eiffel Tower while on vacation in France. Little did I know that what an important role French culture and ideas would play in expanding my approach to research.

For my French class last semester, I had to write a final paper about a current event of my choosing in the style of a typical French essay. My professor explained that in France, academic writing commonly diverges from the structure I described above. Students are encouraged to report on current events by investigating all of the different perspectives, components, and opinions at hand. Instead of crafting a specific argument to articulate and support, students offer thorough descriptions of multiple perspectives, the reasoning behind them, and their sources. As the paper develops, the writer must depict the similarities and differences of each perspective and describe how they interact to affect each other and to shape the greater context.

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Shopping Courses in Sophomore Spring: A Research Project for your Concentration

For Princeton sophomores, the start of second semester can seem like a last-minute mad dash to fulfill prerequisites, choose concentrations and solidify academic paths. Especially for sophomores who have not yet decided on a major, this period can be considerably stressful and overwhelming. While I am not quite in this boat—I have already decided to concentrate in the Woodrow Wilson School—I am facing a similar struggle as I try to settle on a specific track. (For those of you unfamiliar with the track system, Wilson School majors are required to choose a specific field of study under the overarching subject of public and international affairs.)

For sophomores, spring semester presents a crossroad in our academic careers. Design your schedule now to help you know which path to follow.

With the concentration decision deadline rapidly approaching, I’ve decided to treat shopping period as the ultimate academic research experience. Choosing your major really is a lot like tackling a research project. Potential research questions include what are your academic passions? In which areas do you excel? In what ways do you want to be challenged? With whom do you wish to work?

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